Defensive driving is no accident! Take command of your car.

By Ryan Hurlbert on October 15th, 2010

I asked, "Have you had any tickets in the last three years or accidents in the last five years?"

"Yes, I had an accident, but it wasn't my fault," replied the young lady. "I ran a stop sign, and t-boned another car in the intersection."

I was stunned. After many years as an agent, I was used to people denying responsibility for their actions, like backing into a light pole because "it was hard to see in the rain" or rear-ending the car ahead of them because "they stopped unexpectedly", but this was a first.

"How, exactly, is that not your fault?" I asked.

"He didn't have a license and shouldn't have been there anyway, so it wasn't my fault…"

So, what is your fault and what isn't? Unless you are hit by something or someone else, there is a very high likelihood that you will be found at fault. There are those instances when another driver turns in front of you or pulls into your lane and you can't stop in time, but those are rare. The most common accident is rear-ending a car in traffic, and really, how can you blame that on anyone else?

At-fault accidents can lead to increased car insurance rates or even cancellation of your auto insurance policy. They are also completely avoidable. In order to learn from an accident or near miss and avoid the same situation in the future, you have to honestly assess what happened and your role in it. My son once had a minor accident on his motorcycle. There was very little damage and no one got hurt, and he was sure it was the other driver's fault. I let him think about it for a couple of days, then we talked about what happened and he could see his error. He won't make that mistake again. Without first taking responsibility for his actions, he could have never seen his mistake and would have learned nothing.

Pay attention when you drive. Put down the phone. Leave enough space between you and the car ahead of you to take evasive action or stop. The road doesn't start at the back bumper of the car you are following, so why are you only looking that far ahead? Listen to the traffic reports on the radio; knowing there's an accident or slowdown ahead can help you anticipate when you may need to stop.

A clean driving record is no accident.

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